What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is the most common abnormal heart rhythm in dogs. It is characterised by a very irregular rhythm and fast heartbeat. A dog’s heart usually beats between 80-120 beats/min, while a dog with atrial fibrillation can reach heart rates over 240-260 beats/min.
This rhythm is usually associated with significant heart disease and enlargement of the left or right atrium (small chambers in the heart), it has however also been known to occur in giant breed dogs without any obvious heart disease.
Multi-Centre Study into Atrial Fibrillation
Our Specialist Cardiology team is actively involved in ground breaking clinical research to better understand this abnormal rhythm and improve the outcomes for dogs with this condition. The results of our latest study showed that the best treatment strategy is based on controlling the heart rate (slowing it down to values similar to normal and healthy dogs), as this will improve the survival time of the affected dogs.
Controlling the heart rate is usually achieved with anti-arrhythmic medications, but it is not always easy. The study also showed that as well as improving the outcomes for our dogs, the medications used were safe. We know that controlling atrial fibrillation can improve the clinical signs and longevity of a patient. It is therefore important to treat atrial fibrillation appropriately from the time of initial diagnosis as this will give every dog the best chances.
What can I expect from the Atrial Fibrillation Clinic?
We know that controlling atrial fibrillation can improve the clinical signs and longevity of a patient. It is therefore important to treat atrial fibrillation appropriately from the time of initial diagnosis as this will give every dog the best chances.
Our cardiology team are currently leading an international multi-centre study to further investigate the impact of this rhythm on the quality of life and life expectancy of dogs affected by atrial fibrillation. It is expected that this study will revolutionise the way in which this condition is treated in dogs around the world, both by improving their day-to-day lives as well as by giving them longer at home with their families.
The clinical signs of Atrial Fibrillation
The majority of dogs with atrial fibrillation however will be in heart failure and their survival time is directly worsened by the development of this rhythm.
Dogs affected by atrial fibrillation tend to show marked clinical signs:
– Exercise intolerant
– Breathing difficulties
Find out more
To assist owners in understanding more about the conditions related to and treatments available for patients with heart and lung problems, we have put together a range of information sheets to talk you through the some of the more common cardiology conditions seen by our Specialists.